11/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I Interviewed Jillian Michaels and Lived to Tell


Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to interview Jillian Michaels, a woman whose abs are sharp enough to shave my husband's face and who has, in the past, forced Biggest Loser contestants to bench press her. I'll admit, considering the persona put forth on TV, I was a wee bit scared at first. But after talking with her, I can verify that "in person," this fiery, passionate, bounce-a-quarter-off-her-butt specimen is a joy to listen to. I was expecting a woman who forces people to Ellipticize themselves to the point of puking; who hops on the backs of overweight men and makes them carry her around like a human backpack. Jillian may very well do those things on camera, but in real life, it was like talking with a girlfriend. She giggles. She pokes fun at herself. She - I'm not making this up - quotes Madeline Albright. (When discussing the importance of women lifting each other up, she referenced Albright, who famously declared, "I think there is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.")

We talked about her own past struggles with weight; about snacks that pack the most nutritional bang for their caloric buck; girl crushes (many women *heart* The Jillian) and much more.

First question:

"Have you ever struggled with your weight? How did you make the decision to change?"
"Absolutely. I was an overweight teenager, from childhood into my early teen years, about age 14. My mother had the insight to get me into martial arts. That was the catalyst for me to make that transformation into health and wellness, using it as a means to change my life. But it's consistently a struggle and I'm sure it will be until the day I die. Every day you wake up and you make a commitment: Are you going to be self-destructive or are you going to commit yourself to positive change?

Martial arts was really the beginning for me of core training. Also, martial arts helped me understand the importance of intensity in my training - of focus, discipline, using my body weight as resistance like push-ups, pull-ups, squats. Intervals, bursts of energy. The ability to overcome pain. It's pretty much the foundation of my [fitness philosophy.] On Biggest Loser, I mix it up for them- everything from spinning to yoga. They're working out six days a week for five months at a time, so you gotta keep it fresh for them. So I do a lot of martial arts with the contestants - it helps them get out their aggression."